Dear Readers, the following article of mine has been published in our Bank’s house magazine :” Taarangan” in its latest issue of June 2009, on pages 44-45.
CUSTOMER IS KING
By : J. S. BROCA
Retd. Staff, New Delhi
Iwas recently reading an article with the captioned title, published in
“Synnovation Magazine” issue Five, an EDS Agility Quarterly publication written by Rob Lloyd, Senior Vice President of Cisco Systems Inc. USA. He talks about the importance of the customer with reference to a company in general. Accordingly, I would like to share with the readers of Taarangan”, relevant portions of the article, which appeared in the magazine and I have modified it so as to specifically apply it to banks.
Banks have since long acknowledged the importance of the customer but one look at today’s environment makes it amply clear why the customer must be the focus of greater attention now. Competition is now everywhere around the globe and margins have become thinner. With this background it is clear that Banks must look for faster, better, cheaper products and transactions for sustainability. Bank’s future profits will most likely come from providing customers with rich and rewarding experiences that will keep them coming back. An enhanced customer experience doesn’t simply mean better customer service. It means a major shift in the way Banks engage with customers. Banks have now entered the interaction stage and it is this change that will transform Banks from service providers to experience providers.
The total customer experience is the sum total of every interaction the customer has with the Bank. Simply put, the customer experience equation looks like this:
Total Customer Experience = Customer’s Product Experience
+ Customer’s Transaction Experience
+ Customer’s Interaction Experience.
Out of above factors, product experience is the most fundamental. Is the product or service excellent? Does it meet or exceed customer’s needs? Consider the experience of buying a cup of coffee: Is the coffee hot? Is it strong enough? Does the brew taste great with every sip? The product experience is the sum total of all the experiences with the product.
The transaction experience covers the routine exchange of information, goods and services for money. For example, when you are making an on line purchase, one of the first things you notice is whether the website is easy to use. Is the shopping process intuitive? Do you feel secure using your credit card? Have all reasonable expectations been met? Banks have by now become well versed in product and transaction quality. The new frontier in the battle for customer supremacy is the final piece of the equation: the interaction experience. Like transactions, interactions involve an exchange of information, goods and services for money but with interactions, the exchanges are qualitative rather than quantitative. They are driven by Bank’s knowledge of the customer’s preferences and the Bank’s ability to adapt as preferences change.
Customers prefer to do business with Banks that understand their unique needs and preferences. The Bank that can provide a product or service and the total experience that wraps around the offering will be able to increase revenue and remain competitive. Forward thinking banks understand this. Well treated customers become loyal customers and loyal customers remain Bank’s best bet for greater revenue and profits. Loyal customers give a larger share of their wallet to their favourite Bank/product, are less sensitive to price, tend to increase spending as they move through the Bank’s life cycle, and provide a great source of customer referrals.
Banks will now have to focus on a combination of people, processes and technology to achieve success and stay competitive in the new interactive economy. They will have to invest in networking and knowledge technologies to help create more personalized customer experiences. And they will have to alter the staff’s mindset to deliver a rich customer experience to each and every customer. If customer loyalty is a competitive necessity, how do we ensure that our Banks have adopted the mindset and deployed the necessary tools to shift from customer transactions to customer interactions-that is from fulfillment of requirements to customer experience?
The goal for Banks is to get to know each customer by name, behaviour, product preference and communication preference.
Banks can meet the challenge by adopting the following fundamental strategies:
Changing the Paradigm
Banks need to become “flatter”, giving employees more autonomy to make substantive decisions. That is because the customer experience will increasingly depend not on routine, easy to automate processes, but on unpredictable, hard to automate knowledge workers. Rules and policies will need to be replaced by options and exceptions.
Utilizing the Network
The network is no longer just infrastructure or bandwidth. It provides a platform for delivering the customer experiences which are so important for success in today’s environment. The network of the Banks can deliver a consistent well connected customer experience across all their branches, be it in India or abroad. With a minimal additional investment and a bit of re-engineering, Banks can create tremendous value by building customer databases that provide a single view of the customer, deploy end-to-end networks that manage data from capture to action and design communication systems that integrate all the products and services that define the customer experience.
Update Business Processes
Banks will have to plan for maintaining a core database of customer profile, preference and usage information. Usually, such information is mostly retained in department databases or with third parties. Banks will have to integrate the data that not only helps them understand the customer but also help the customer understand the bank.
Educate the Workforce
Management skills, interpersonal skills and problem solving skills will be the most important qualities for employees over the next decade. These skills will be particularly important in customer-service which is a function where personal chemistry and creative insight matter more than rules and processes.
Develop Multiple Channels of Communication
A large part of creating positive experiences is allowing the customers to communicate with you when, where and how they desire. The bank’s network can be used for providing more efficient transactions and for orchestrating a large number of customer interactions. A wireless network with appropriate technology which can integrate and deliver data, voice and video with ease will be a vital instrument which will enable seamless customer interactions over various communication channels.
Monitor and Reward Loyalty
You can’t reward loyalty if you can’t measure it. Banks interested in moving from a transaction model to an interaction model will have to think of ways to create procedures and policies that identify and reward customer loyalty at the right moment.
Today the biggest opportunity for creating a satisfying customer experience is through collaboration among all the departments of the Bank. Incentives will have to be given to employees to collaborate more effectively.
Collaborating with the customers is a great way to learn about and improve the customer experience. According to the surveys done elsewhere, it is observed that a very large portion of new business ideas come from customers and market intelligence. Banks will have to design products to involve their customers more closely in new products and share more information with them. The most important step for the banks is to ensure that the bank’s network connects as many people in as many places to as much information as possible.
In conclusion, banks will need to make significant changes to stay competitive. This time around its all about customer experience and those Banks that create the most satisfying experience will reap the greatest rewards.
Readers can explore “Broca’s Doodle Pad” by browsing google. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org